Saturday, October 03, 2009



It’s Friday night, the first Friday in October, and somewhere a couple hundred miles or so to the northeast Bruce is about an hour into the second of five shows at Giants Stadium, the soon-to-be-demolished monstrosity just off of Exit 16W on the New Jersey Turnpike. I should be so upset that I’m missing it, that I’m probably going to miss the entire stand—the Last Hurrah at the fabled venue. I should care—I’ve loved Bruce, lived for him since I was a teenager—but instead I feel nothing at all.

The concept of romantic love is, by historical standards, a relatively recent phenomenon. Its mythology reaches back hundreds of years, back to a time when marrying for love was a luxury, was the exception not the rule. Romantic love has been examined ad infinitum in literature, film, art. It’s fantasy, really, but we’re raised on it, and so we grow up believing in “true love,” in finding the one person for whom we’re perfectly suited, with whom we can walk off into the sunset and live happily ever after. But people are imperfect; circumstances change, priorities shift; over the years, because we are human, we evolve. We become bored if we stand still, so we seek new challenges, hunger for new ideas and experiences; we are in a constant state of forward motion until we die.

The institution of marriage, on the other hand, depends on stability, reliability, steadfastness, compromise. On being true to another person in body and mind, acting as one half of a whole regardless of the inevitable ebbs and flows of emotion, attraction and desire, or of different rates of change within each individual. To ask both members of a romantic couple not just to be flexible and accommodate such changes, but also to absorb them and then synchronize their own growth and transformation to them seems a well nigh impossible task.

And so it is that many romantic couples break up; over time, whether married or not, they slowly, almost imperceptibly, distance themselves from one another until they have grown completely apart. This is often a painful process for one if not both of the parties involved, because one person may have moved at a different speed or headed down a different path from the other, leaving him or her behind in the process. And it’s tough leaving someone you care about. Relationships are difficult, marriage is work, this we know. But what if all the work and all the tribulation and effort no longer bring both parties to common ground? Human beings hate stagnation; we love nothing more than adventure, broadening our mental and physical horizons. The surprise, therefore, is not that we break apart, it’s that we can ever stand to be with each other for any length of time in the first place.

Tonight Bruce is playing Giants Stadium, entertaining some 80,000 people on a chill autumn evening in a building that will soon be nothing but dust and rubble. And I should, by all rights, be there. But it’s 2009. He’s 60 and I’m not far behind, and nothing is the same anymore. The shows are shorter, more stagey, less dangerous. The tickets are more expensive, the fans less intense in their dedication, more self-absorbed. And, inevitably, as Bruce and I have grown older, both of us have changed. The things that seemed so important to us have, as he once wrote, “vanished into the air.” I have found new passions, new interests; he has married and raised a family. New people have entered our lives and others drifted from sight. I once thought Bruce and his music would always mean as much to me as they did in my youth, just as he himself once thought rock’n’roll would always be everything to him. But I must now admit to myself—as he no doubt has—that that is no longer the case.

So tonight I am experiencing the breakup of what has been a long, intense relationship, and I should be devastated. Instead, for the first time in a very long time, I am optimistic about the future. Bruce’s music is still great, and it will always be there. But tomorrow holds the promise of new experiences, new people, places to go and things to see and hear and do. Perhaps that’s what he really meant for those two characters in his classic “Thunder Road”—that the couple was never really running away from something, but running toward something—the exciting changes that lay just ahead down that dusty beach road. Or perhaps not. But really, what can one do but wait and see?

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Lisa, you said it so well.

    I realized Wednesday night that it was the first NY-area show in 30 years that I willingly missed (not counting the many times he's played my city while I was 4,000 miles away). Just couldn't be bothered to spend 100 bucks for a stadium show... although I did go last night after scoring a very cheap ticket and loved hearing Darkness.

    And that will be it for me... you couldn't pay me to stand there while he plays BITUSA.